How to Enroll a Child in Public School

How to Enroll a Child in
Public School
Education Law Center
The Philadelphia Building
1315 Walnut Street, 4th Floor
Philadelphia, PA 19107-4717
Phone: 215-238-6970
Education Law Center
702 Law & Finance Building
429 Fourth Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15219
Phone: 412-258-2120
IMPORTANT: ELC's publications are intended to give you a general idea of the law.
However, each situation is different. If, after reading our publications, you have questions
about how the law applies to your particular situation, contact us for a referral, or contact an
attorney of your choice.
Dear Parent, Student, or Advocate:
Making sure that your child enrolls in and goes to public school is very important
for his or her education and future. By following these four simple steps, we can
help you enroll your child in public school (which includes charter school.)
Step 1: Is the Child Living with You?
A child can attend school in the school district where she lives with her parent or
guardian or where she lives with a district resident who has charge or care of the
child. For information about enrolling a child who lives with someone who is NOT
his parent or guardian, see the Enrollment Packet for a Child Living with Someone
other than their Parent on the Education Law Center Web site:
Step 2: How to Enroll
A child can be enrolled by a parent, foster parent, guardian, caseworker or
anyone having charge or care of the child.
Go to the central registration office in the school district where you live. You must
bring with you:
 Proof of the child’s age
 Proof of where you live
 The child’s immunization records.
Remind the secretary to request the child’s education records from her old school!
The child’s old school must send the records to the new school in 10 business days.
NOTE: See Top Ten Questions for more information
Step 3: What Happens If the Child is NOT Enrolled in 5 Business Days?
If the child has not started school within five business days of completing Step 2,
call the district’s registration office and ask them why the child has not been
 The law says that the child must be enrolled and going to school within five
business days of the school receiving all enrollment documents.
If the school district does not allow the child to start school after five business days,
file a complaint with the Pennsylvania Department of Education. We have included
a complaint letter for you to use—just fill out “Tool #1” and mail or fax it or you
can call the Pennsylvania Department of Education at this special number: (717)
783-6610. If the Pennsylvania Department of Education does not help, call us at
(215) 238-6970.
Step 4: Is there Anything Else You Should Know Before the Child Starts
Yes. You can ask to talk to a counselor or an administrator at the child’s new school
about these issues:
 Find out what credits the school requires for graduation. Make sure that the
school is giving the child credit for ALL the courses she has already taken.
 If the child has an IEP, make sure that the school has a copy of it. The school
must follow the old IEP until you have a new IEP Team meeting. If you asked
for a special education evaluation at your child’s old school, tell your child’s
new school about it.
 If the child needs tutoring or wants to be in a vocational class or is interested
in participating in an extracurricular activity, ask about it.
 Remember: Even if the child was in an alternative education program at her
last school district, the new school district cannot automatically place her in
an alternative education program UNLESS she is CURRENTLY expelled for a
weapons offense from her prior school.
Top Ten Questions About Enrolling Your Child in School
1) Can the school district ask you to provide proof of the child’s age?
Yes, but they can only require that you bring in ONE of the following: birth
certificate, passport, baptismal certificate, notarized statement from a parent or
relative of the child’s age, or prior school records.
2) Can the school district ask you to give them proof of the child’s physical or
dental examination or a physical health or mental health history in order to
enroll in school?
No! This information can never be required as a condition of enrollment.
3) Are there any documents that a school district CANNOT ask you to provide?
Yes! School districts can never ask for a child’s social security number or card,
immigration documents, or information about why the child is living with you.
4) Can the school district ask you for records from a child welfare agency?
Only if you are seeking to enroll a child for whom you have legal guardianship or
legal custody and this is the basis for the child’s enrollment in the school district.
5) Can a school district ever ask about a child’s immigration status?
6) If a child is under age 21 and has passed the GED Tests, can the child still
enroll in school and work towards her regular high school diploma?
Yes, unless the child is currently expelled from the school district in which she wants
to enroll.
7) If the child was in a delinquency placement and now wants to reenroll in
her school district, can the school district automatically place the child in an
alternative education program for disruptive youth?
No, the child has a right to an informal hearing before she is sent to an alternative
education program. The child must be currently disruptive in order to be sent to an
alternative education program.
8) Can the school district ask that you provide proof of where you live?
Yes, but the school district must accept ANY of the following documents as proof of
where you live: a lease, a deed, a property tax bill, driver’s license, state or
federal documents (such as mail from the Social Security Administration), current
utility bills, vehicle registration, or a notarized statement signed by you that says
where you and the child live.
9) Can a school district delay enrollment to decide the child’s classroom
placement, have an IEP Team meeting, or conduct academic testing?
No. A child is entitled to start school within 5 business days of providing the
required enrollment documents so that the child does not fall behind.
10) Is a child “too old” to be in school if she is 19 or 20 years old?
No. A child has a legal right to go to school in Pennsylvania until she is 21 years
old (as long as she has not yet graduated from high school).
The information in this packet was prepared by the Education Law Center